I may be radicalized on this subject but I’m seeing an inexorable move towards isolationism in the United States. One aspect of the move is the Come Home, America tone of those who advocate withdrawing our forces from Iraq, which is beginning to include Republicans (eyes on the 2008 elections, no doubt) as well as Democrats. The predisposition to discount the risks for the Iraqis, the neighboring countries, and U. S. interests as a consequence of that course of action concerns me.
The mood is even more obvious in the anti-trade sentiments that are floating around. I don’t know that anyone in the blogosphere has been more out front in covering the various problems with Chinese imports than I have been so it may seem odd that I’d criticize the anti-Chinese editorials and news coverage that we’ve been seeing so much of lately. Note, however, that my prescriptions for remedying the situation have consistently been country-of-origin labelling to give consumers the ability to make informed choices and greater due diligence on the part of managers. I haven’t been advocating bans or tariffs.
Ever since China and India began opening their economies there has been no greater engine for improving human happiness than international trade. The overwhelming preponderance of the benefits of China’s export-driven economic growth have gone to people in the lowest income quintiles. For details see here.
The latest salvo in the march against international trade seems to be the opposition of some in Congress to the U. S.-Colombia bilateral trade agreement:
The headline above — The collapse of Colombian-U.S. relations — comes from an article in Nova Colombia, detailing how an anti-trade contingent in Congress, aligned with organized labor, is using every political weapon to block the new, bilateral free trade agreement. Its failure could be devastating for democratic progress in Latin America.
On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily editorially explained the real crisis facing trade and democratic progress in Colombia and Latin America, “Congress Holds Colombia Hostage.” It’s a harsh editorial, one that does not adequately acknowledge the level of internal congressional debate on Colombia, but it does powerfully paint the stakes of a failed FTA.
The trade pact Colombia negotiated in good faith with the U.S. and which it needs to sustain its dramatic economic recovery from the ruins of a 44-year war must wait until Democrats arbitrarily decide they’re satisfied with the violence level. This gives every anti-free trade Colombian thug an incentive to keep killing.
I’m sympathetic to those who want to tie improvements in human rights and political freedom to trade but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. Our emphasis should be more on providing incentives than on curbing trade.